~ 4th of July Yankee Doodle Dandy Macaroni Salad ~
If you've always quizzically wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will give you "the scoop". As I wrote back in November, I'm sure there is a percentage of you who think macaroni was invented by Kraft foods, but food historians are pretty certain it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought in Italy. Thank-you Thomas Jefferson for bringing/introducing macaroni to America, more importantly, macaroni and cheese, as it has got to be near the very top of the American comfort food list!
Now, why exactly did Yankee Doodle Dandy stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni? Was he some sort of a nut? Well, in the time period, this British pre-revolutionary war song was nothing more than the British making full-bown fun of the American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, "country bumpkins" or "hicks". British slang for idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee Idiot). Back in the 1700's, both European men and women equally prided themselves in making a fashion statement whenever they were in public, and, a man who was a fashion leader was called "dandy". So, was Yankee Doodle actually a dandy? Not by the British standards. In the song they have the poor idiot, Yankee Doodle, riding into town on a pony, not even a proper horse, and, sticking a feather in his three-corned tricorne or coonskin hat in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of a stylish man of Europe.
But why would he call a feather macaroni? Well, he didn't... remember the British wrote this song and back then "macaroni" was another derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls. In extreme cases, the wigs were built upon and around heavy wire forms. These extreme wigs were worn intentionally by men who were in the business of bringing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis"!
What does this mean for us foodies? Well, whether macaroni was named after the wigs, or the wigs were named after the curly little Italian pasta remains a "chicken or the egg" mystery, but for me: every year on the 4th of July I find myself proudly humming this tune and preparing macaroni salad in honor of it!
A bit about macaroni: Macaroni is a small shaped semolina and water pasta and does not contain eggs. While most macaronis are tube-shaped, the most famous being elbow macaroni, there are other forms including shells, twists and spirals. My favorite for making macaroni salad is mafalda and it resembles miniature ruffled-edged lasagna. I like this shape because it is very fork-friendly.
For my recipe, you will need:
3 12-ounce boxs mafalda, or, 2 16-ounce boxes elbow macaroni
~ Step 1. In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt. Add the macaroni, briefly stir and cook until al dente. Do not overcook. Drain into a large colander and rinse under cold water until pasta is cooled to below room temperature. Allow pasta to continue to drain and "dry", about 45 minutes. Using a large rubber spatula, gently toss occasionally during this "drying" process. Note: Rinsing off the starch and drying the pasta keeps macaroni salad from getting pasty.
6 cups mayonnaise
6 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons each: dry English mustard, cayenne pepper sauce and sugar
1 teaspoon each: salt and white pepper
For the fresh ingredients:
2 generous cups diced red onion
2 generous cups diced celery
1 generous cup peeled and diced carrots
1 generous cup diced green bell pepper
1 generous cup diced red bell pepper
8 jumbo eggs, hard-cooked and coarsely chopped (optional)
~ Step 2. While the macaroni is draining and "drying", hard-cook the optional eggs in the same 8-quart stockpot. For instructions on how to cook perfect eggs without those tell-tale green rings that denote overcooking, you can read my recipe for ~ A Little Thing Called: Boiling Eggs ~ in Category 15. Prep all of the fresh vegetables as directed and pictured above.
~ Step 4. Using the same spatula fold all of the fresh vegetables into the sauce mixture. Don't fold the optional hard-cooked eggs in yet.
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; large colander; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap
Cook's Note: This recipe has been written so you can easily make half as much. That being said, whenever I'm making macaroni salad, it is usually for a big gathering or large picnic, so I published the large quantity version!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)